Verlander vs. The Yankees: it hardly seems fair

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The Tigers are up 2-0 in the ALCS. They are back home in Detroit. The Yankees offense is sending scribes to the thesaurus to find new words to describe their anemic offense ( feeble, infirm, pallid, sickly, wan, impotent, debilitated, decrepit, enervated, faint, flaccid, forceless, frail, impuissant).  And, oh yeah, Justin Verlander is on the mound for the Tigers.

Should we even bother playing this game?

OK, I oversell the point, but you do hear what I’m saying, yes?  Things look bleak for the Yankees and they could not be set up any more favorably for the Tigers who, after Verlander pitches, get two more games at home, with the next one started by Max Scherzer. Not that it much matters who the Tigers put out on the mound because, with the exception of mostly-demoted closer Jose Valverde, no Detroit pitcher has allowed an earned run since Game 3 of the division series against Oakland.

The Yankees situation, on the other hand, is dire. Derek Jeter is out for the year after breaking an ankle in Game 1. Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher are a combined 12 for 107 in seven postseason games, and the world is facing a shortage of the letter K thanks to so many of them being used to fill out Yankees scorecards.

Is there any hope for New York?

Sure there is. This is baseball, and if we have learned anything so far this postseason, we’ve learned that there is no such thing as momentum. If there was, Robinson Cano would still be hitting like he did at the end of the regular season and New York would have won Game 1 of this series after mounting that four-run comeback in the ninth inning against Jose Valverde on Saturday.  So where is the hope? How about here:

  • The Yankees aren’t afraid of Verlander: The Yankees faced Justin Verlander three times in 2012 and they won two of those games, notching 25 hits in 20 and a third innings. Granted, the Yankees had help from the Tigers defense in a couple of those outings — of the 12 runs Verlander surrendered to New York, five were unearned — but simply being able to make that kind of contact off Verlander shows that the Yankees are not going to simply lie down for the Tigers ace;
  • The Tigers bullpen is still a hot mess. We saw Jose Valverde melt down in Game 1, which has likely forced him out of closing situations, but Jim Leyland says he’ll still use Papa Grande at some point and that’s good news for the Yankees.  The Tigers used Phil Coke for a two inning save in Game 2, and other late inning options include Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel and Al Alburquerque. Any of those guys are capable of blowing a lead at any moment.
  • The Yankees bats can’t stay cold forever. Slumps happen, but they eventually end. Maybe the Yankees’ bats won’t wake up until they get to Tampa next February, but with the hitting talent New York possesses, it is not hard to envision them simply snapping out of their current funk and putting up ten runs at some point. This isn’t some scared, overmatched first time playoff team here. This is the New York Freakin’ Yankees.

Of course, hope is an uncertain thing. Justin Verlander in a big game is far less uncertain.  The smart money — if you’re dumb enough to bet on baseball anyway — has to be on Detroit tonight.  With their ace behind the wheel and the Yankees hitters looking like roadkill lately, the Tigers appear to be on the road to the World Series.

Manuel Margot exits game with apparent wrist injury

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Padres outfielder Manuel Margot was pulled from Friday’s game after sustaining an injury on an attempted catch in the eighth inning. Margot laid out in center field to snare Cesar Hernandez‘s double, but appeared to injure his left wrist in the process. Little is known about the precise nature or severity of the injury so far, but Margot underwent an evaluation following the incident and should have a clearer picture of his recovery timetable soon.

It’s a disappointing turn of events for the 23-year-old outfielder, who finished the game batting .245/.312/.365 with 25 extra-base hits and a .677 OPS through 312 PA. This isn’t the first time he’s been sidelined with wrist issues this season; he hyperextended his left wrist on another diving catch back in mid-May, though he managed to successfully avoid the disabled list (and a lengthy setback) after taking a few days off. It’s not clear whether he’ll be that lucky a second time.

An unforeseen result of Margot’s departure in the eighth: The Padres were forced to insert catcher A.J. Ellis in left field for the first time, as they had already cycled through their remaining options on the bench. Ellis, whose last tryout in the outfield came during a two-inning stint in Double-A back in 2007, didn’t get the chance to show off his defensive chops, however, as Wil Myers gloved the inning-ending out several minutes after Margot was removed from the game. The Padres dropped their series opener to the Phillies, 11-5.